Specifications of a Sony PlayStation 4 software development kit have been published by a web-site, confirming the PC nature of the next-generation video game system from Sony Corp. and the fact that it will rely on central processing unit and graphics processing unit designed by Advanced Micro Devices. Unfortunately, specs of the devkit have nothing to do with actual specification of the console, but give a lot of clues.
Sony PlayStation 4 development kit model number DVKT-KS000K is based on an eight-core AMD FX-series processor with “Bulldozer” cores, AMD Radeon HD “R1000-series” (DirectX 11.1-class Sea Islands product line based on Graphics Core Next architecture with some tweaks) graphics processing unit and is equipped with 8GB of system memory and 2.2GB of graphics memory, reports Kotaku web-site. The system also features Blu-ray disc drive, 160GB hard drive, four USB 3.0 ports, two Ethernet ports as well as HDMI video/audio output in addition to optical output for 2.0, 5.1, 7.1 audio.
Keeping in mind the fact that AMD’s high-performance x86 Bulldozer and Piledriver cores are pretty large and expensive to make (FX-series microprocessors on both types of cores are currently manufactured using super-high performance 32nm HKMG process technology on expensive SOI wafers), it is unlikely that Sony PlayStation 4 will rely on a version of FX-series chip with eight cores. As reported before, both Microsoft Xbox “Durango” and Sony PlayStation 4 “Orbis” are going to be based on highly-integrated system-on-chips featuring eight low-power/low-cost AMD Jaguar x86 64-bit cores.
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AMD’s Jaguar looks very promising on paper and has a number of advantages that may be especially valuable for game consoles, including 128-bit floating point unit (FPU) with enhancements and double-pumping to support 256-bit AVX instructions as well as an innovative integer unit with new hardware divider, larger schedulers and more out-of-order resources. In addition, AMD Jaguar supports the same new instructions as Bulldozer/Piledriver, including SSE4.1, SSE4.2, AES, PCLMUL, AVX, BMI, F16C as well as MOVBE (which is the reason why the PS4 devkit uses already available AMD FX-series chips). Another advantage of using AMD’s Jaguar for video game consoles is relatively simplistic design of the core that lets Microsoft and Sony to order manufacturing of chips powered by Jaguar at different foundries without major problems with porting the design to a different process technologies. Yet another benefit of Jaguar is its small size (just 3.1mm2 per die, without L2 cache), which allows to integrate eight of such cores into one chip without significantly improving costs.
Obviously, AMD’s Jaguar is substantially behind the company’s high-end x86 cores when it comes to general-purpose performance and therefore some of the operations may take a long time to complete, unless there are no special-purpose accelerators integrated or the consoles will heavily rely on GPGPU [general-purpose computing using GPUs] technologies.
The specifications of the PlayStation 4 development kit confirm that the PS4 “Orbis” will be largely based on off-the-shelf components tightly integrated into custom system-on-chips with Sony’s own IP. The next-generation PlayStation is expected to get eight all-new x86 cores with latest instructions as well as future-generation of AMD Radeon HD DirectX 11.1-class graphics engine, which should provide decent performance and decent quality of visuals. What obviously remains to be seen is what secret sauce will Sony add to the custom SoC designed by AMD as clearly the company will hardly rely on pure PC technologies, given its traditions.
What is a bit alarming is that the PS4 development kit is reportedly used today. Less than a year before the launch of the console, at least some game developers do not use the final hardware, which is reportedly going to be significantly less powerful than the PlayStation 4 “Orbis” devkit.
Sony did not comment on the news-story.